Vienna, Austria, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday evening in the "Wiener Konzerthaus," the Viennese concert hall inaugurated in 1913 in the presence of the emperor Francis Joseph I, the Pope met with civil and ecclesial volunteer groups active in Austria. Benedict told those gathered that “[v]olunteer work is really about the heart of the Christian image of God and man: love of God and love of neighbor."
Greetings from the young volunteer workers and talks by the president of the Republic of Austria and by the Pope were interspersed with brief musical interludes.
At the beginning of his talk, the Pope expressed "gratitude and heartfelt thanks for the remarkable 'culture of volunteerism' existing in Austria. ... Love of neighbor is not something that can be delegated; the State and the political order, properly concerned with the relief of the needy and the provision of social services, cannot take the place of volunteer work. Love of neighbor always demands a voluntary personal commitment, and the State, of course, should provide the conditions which make this possible."
"To say 'yes' to volunteering to help others is a decision which is liberating; it opens our hearts to the needs of others, to the requirements of justice, to the defense of life and the protection of creation. Volunteer work is really about the heart of the Christian image of God and man: love of God and love of neighbor."
Volunteer work is characterized by its "gratuitousness" said the Pope, affirming that "a readiness to be at the service of others is something which surpasses calculations of investment and return: it shatters the rules of market economy. The value of human beings cannot be judged by purely economic criteria."
"In the gaze of others, and particularly of the person who needs our help, we experience the concrete demands of Christian love. Jesus Christ does not teach us a spirituality 'of closed eyes,' but one of 'alertness,' one which entails an absolute duty to take notice of the needs of others."
The Holy Father dwelt on the importance of prayer for people involved in charitable enterprises. "Praying to God sets us free from ideologies and from a sense of hopelessness in the face of endless needs," he said.
"Whenever people do more than their simple duty in professional life and in the family - and even doing this well calls for great strength and much love - and whenever they commit themselves to helping others, putting their precious free time at the service of man and his dignity, their hearts expand."
Benedict XVI concluded his address by affirming that "anyone who takes seriously the 'priority' of his neighbor lives and acts in accordance with the Gospel and shares in the mission of the Church, which always looks at the whole person and wants everyone to experience the love of God. The Church fully supports this valuable service that you offer."
San Diego, Calif., Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of San Diego came to a $198.1-million settlement with 144 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests and church staff. The average payout will be $1.38 million per person making it the second largest payout to date. The diocese and its insurance carrier, Catholic Mutual, will pay the bulk.
The settlement was announced Friday morning, after an eight-hour marathon mediation session the day before.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs locked horns in a federal courtroom on Thursday, arguing among each other over what their clients should receive, reported the Union-Tribune.
Magistrate Judge Leo Papas, who has led the mediation sessions since June, sent the lawyers home to sleep on it. They returned at 8:30 a.m. on Friday and hammered out the remaining details by 11:30 a.m.
The decision on Friday ended four years of legal fighting.
Guy Lowry, 48, who said he was repeatedly sodomized while in a Catholic orphanage when he was a boy, told the Union-Tribune that the local bishop’s cooperation was crucial to getting the settlement finalized.
According to Lowry, Papas called Bishop Robert Brom and got him directly involved in negotiations, which were being supervised by diocese in-house counsel Micheal Webb.
Lowry filed his lawsuit was filed in 2003, when California temporarily waived the statute of limitations for these kinds of sexual abuse claims. He was later selected by Lowry to be on the creditors' committee and represent all the victims before a federal bankruptcy judge.
Lowry added that he was impressed with Bishop Brom's televised apology Friday afternoon and said he believed the bishop was being sincere.
Fr. John Dolan, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Chula Vista, addressed another often overlooked aspect of the sex abuse scandal, saying that the entire priesthood should not be punished for the sins of a few. “Pray for the priests of this diocese.” “They are good men,” said Fr. Dolan.
He asked for prayers for the victims and asked people to pray for themselves, to stay strong in their faith despite the turmoil.
Dublin, Ireland, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - The parish of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Nunsquarter-Kircubbin in the city of Down (Ireland) has been partially destroyed by a homemade bomb, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Officials also reported that they are “trying to determine the motive behind the incident.” The pastor of the parish, Father Colm McBride, said the person who was responsible for the attack must have acted alone. “It’s the work of an individual who doesn’t represent anyone except his own disturbed choices,” the priest said, adding, “Here relations are very good.”
The homemade explosive sparked a fire at a window of the parish.
Beijing, China, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - As promised this past week, the government controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) has ordained a new bishop to stem what it calls a ‘dire shortage’ of bishops. This ordination, unlike previous government approved appointments, has received the approval of the Vatican, according to the BBC.
Bishop Xiao was ordained as the coadjutor for the Diocese of Guizhou meaning he will assume leadership when 88 year-old Bishop Anicetus Wang retires.
The ordination ceremony was attended by three thousand people and is the first episcopal ordination since Pope Benedict’s letter to the Catholic Church in China.
In the wake of Benedict XVI’s call for unity between the “official” church and the “underground” church, some of those who attended the ceremony were part of the “underground” church. Since word of the Vatican’s approval of Bishop Xiao was circulating for some time before his ordination, it was possible for these Catholics, who remain loyal to the Pope in the face of persecution, to attend.
The CCPA has said that more ordinations will follow soon, although there is debate as to whether or not the Vatican has already approved the choices and the CCPA is trying to upstage the Church.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - The archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, rejected calls to legalize abortion in the country and said the United Nations is “irresponsible” in supporting “therapeutic abortion.”
The archbishop reminded everyone that “nobody has the right to kill another,” and denied that the Church would change its position on the issue, “even if all of the countries do so.”
The Dominican Republic’s National Congress is debating the legalization of abortion, with supporters calling for the approval of “therapeutic abortion,” that is, in cases of life of the mother. However, pro-life doctors point out that modern medicine makes such cases extremely rare and they say that instead of promoting abortion, the goal ought to be to protect both lives.
The cardinal called on Dominicans to mobilize against abortion and he called those who support the practice “irresponsible,” including the UN. “Everybody who takes this path is mistaken,” Cardinal Rodriguez stated.
Modena, Italy, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - Luciano Pavarotti, the world renowned tenor was laid to rest in Modena’s cathedral with a grand funeral which paid tribute to the opera legend and gave witness to his return to the Catholic faith.
The diocese had received criticisms that it had gone overboard in honoring a remarried divorcé. But Pavarotti's parish priest, Fr. Remo Sartori, said the twice-married singer had been reconciled with the Catholic faith, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. Pavarotti had received the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick before losing his battle against pancreatic cancer last Thursday, aged 71.
Church leaders and pastors, including Pope Benedict XVI, sent messages conveying their condolences. The Pope’s message expressed his sorrow at the loss of "a great artist who with his extraordinary interpretative talent honored the divine gift of music".
In his tribute, Archbishop Benito Cocchi of Modena recognized Pavarotti as an exceptional talent and as someone who “expressed himself in charity towards those who suffered."
One of the emotional climaxes of the funeral was a 1978 recording of Panis Angelicus (Bread Of Angels), performed by Pavarotti and his father, Fernando.
Another followed a prayer composed by Pavarotti's three eldest daughters from his first marriage, which said: "We thank God for having given Dad the gift of a great voice and we pray that he will allow him to use it in heaven to sing his praise."
Pavarotti's musical talent emerged in a church choir, where he sang with his father, Fernando Pavarotti, who was a baker. His father also had a terrific tenor voice, but stage fright prevented him from developing his talent.
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced the sale of a convent in Santa Barbara as part of its effort to pay its share of the $660-million settlement reached with victims of sex abuse by priests.
The convent has been the home of the Sisters of Bethany and was built for the congregation in 1952. Unlike most religious houses, the convent is owned by the archdiocese, which it has been renting out to the sisters for free. The sisters pay for utilities and upkeep.
The three sisters who live at the house have been working with the poor and undocumented immigrants on Santa Barbara’s east side. They received a letter from the vicar general at the end of August, stating that they had to vacate the house by Dec. 31
One of the sisters, named Sr. Angela, said she had hoped the archdiocese would have communicated the decision in a more personal way, with a telephone call, for example. She told the Los Angeles Times that she was also pained by the fact that the money for the sale would be used to make up for “the pedophile priests.”
Archdiocese spokesperson Tod Tamberg told the Times the sale of the house, though difficult, was necessary. He pointed out that the chancery office was being sold and employees have a pay freeze this year.
"This is just part of making it right with the victims, and we all have to share in the process even though none of us … harmed anybody. All of us as a church have to pay for the sins of a few people," he was quoted as saying.
Unable to afford a rental in Santa Barbara, the sisters will move to their congregation’s house in Los Angeles.
The convent is assessed at $97,746, but other houses in the neighborhood have been marked for sale at $700,000.
Cardinal Roger Mahony has said he will not sell any parish properties for the settlement.
, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - During his three-day visit to Austria last week, Pope Benedict XVI said he rejects the concept that abortion is a human right and urged European leaders to do everything possible to raise birth rates and make their countries more child-friendly.
The 80-year-old pontiff told diplomats and representatives of international organizations that Europe could not deny its Christian roots, from which emerged the whole concept of human rights, reported Reuters.
"It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself," he said in an address on Friday at the former imperial Hofburg Palace.
"This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite. It is a deep wound in society," he was quoted as saying.
The pontiff also decried Europe's declining birth rates, appealing to politicians "not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness."
He urged them to "do everything possible to make European countries once again open to welcoming children".
The average birth rate in the European Union is about 1.5 children per woman, and some countries have adopted incentives to encourage couples to have children.
Vienna, Austria, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the Angelus yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a letter addressed to children, which reads as follows:
On the occasion of my apostolic visit to Austria, I am happy to particularly address you who actively participate in the initiatives of the Pontifical Children’s Missionary Works. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your letters and drawings which you gave me as a sign of your affection and closeness to my mission. In them you express those sentiments of faith and love for which Jesus loved the little ones so much and received them with open arms, placing them as an example for his disciples: ‘The Kingdom of God,’ he said, ‘belongs to such as these.’
I wish to tell you that I appreciate your commitment to the Children’s Missions. "I see you little co-workers in the service that the Pope gives to the Church and the world: You support me with your prayer and with your commitment to spread the Gospel. There are so many children in fact who still do not know Jesus. And unfortunately there are many others deprived of what they need to live: food, health care, education; many live without peace and tranquility. The Church gives them particular attention, especially through missionaries; and you too feel called to offer your contribution, whether personally or as a group.
Friendship with Jesus is such a beautiful gift that you cannot keep it to yourselves! Those who receive this gift feel the need to give it to others; and in this way the shared gift does not diminish but multiplies! Keep to this path! You are growing up and soon you will become adolescents and young people. Do not lose your missionary spirit. Always keep your faith pure and genuine, like that of St. Peter.
Beloved little friends, I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary. I pray for you, for your parents and siblings. I pray for your missionary groups and your teachers, and to all I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.”
Lima, Peru, Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Lima said this week it will continue to send priests to the region of Ica until normalcy returns to the diocese that was struck by an earthquake on August 15.
Priests in groups of eight or ten have been sent to the devastated coastal region in order to help administer the sacraments and provide spiritual support to the thousands of people affected by the quake in the cities of Chincha, Pisco and Ica. Likewise, members of various religious orders and young people have volunteered to help out in the relief effort.
According to archdiocesan sources, the pastoral work in earthquake-stricken region is taking place in dozens of relief centers and parishes. On September 2, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima called for solidarity with those stricken by the devastation. “Brothers and sisters, may there be someone in my life every day to whom I can lend a hand (…), and therefore that humility, that solidarity will fill us with the happiness that everyone desires.”
Denver, Colo., Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - More that 30 Catholic Latino businessmen and professionals from around the country gathered this past weekend at the Archdiocese of Denver to announce the creation of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL.) The group was created after some of the US bishops identified the need for ongoing dialogue with Catholic Latino leaders.
Members of the new association gathered at Saint Malo retreat house at the invitation of Most Reverend José Gomez, Archbishop of San Antonio and with Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap, as their host.
The participants at the 3rd Catholic Latino Leadership Conference explained that the creation of CALL came as a response to some of the bishops asking for a dialogue with Catholic laity who are in the business and professional sectors.
“Driven by our love for the Church and her mission, within the context of our culture, and in communion with the bishops,” the members of CALL committed themselves to being a national voice for Catholic, Latino business and professional leaders in the United States.
During the Conference, Archbishop Chaput spoke about the way that the American Catholic population is changing, saying, “the American landscape has changed.” “Demography is destiny. In the future, Hispanic Catholics will have a very serious influence on the direction of American society. And this is why I believe it’s time for Hispanics in general, and Hispanic leadership in particular, to take up the role that they deserve, and which they’ve earned, in the mission of the Church.”
The mission of the new organization will be to impact the national dialogue and contribute to the mission of the Church by identifying initiatives important to the building up of the Catholic community and if appropriate, support them in accordance with the bishops.
CALL will also support the implementation of the five priorities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Pastoral Plan for the next decade; namely, to restore and promote the sanctity of marriage and family; to educate and form people in the faith and the faithful celebration of the sacraments; to promote priestly and religious vocations; to promote the life and dignity of the human person; and to promote cultural diversity and Hispanic ministry.
Archbishop Gomez said during his remarks that “we might be tempted on some level to feel that somehow we must prove that we are real Americans. We might feel subtle pressures to blend in, to assimilate, to downplay our heritage and our distinctive identities as Catholics and Hispanics.”
“I believe that in God’s plan –he added-, the new Hispanic presence is for the purpose of our country’s spiritual renewal. To restore the promise of America’s youth. The noble ideals of our country’s beginnings. In this renewed encounter with Hispanic faith and culture, I believe God wants America to rediscover values it has lost sight of—the importance of religion, family, friendship, community, and the culture of life.”
“So I urge you friends: Do not forget where you came from or who you are! Do not forget Jesus. Do not forget the Church,” Archbishop Gomez concluded.
CALL will soon create a website and establish a national office.
For information about how to join the organization email: [email protected]
Denver, Colo., Sep 10, 2007 (CNA) - Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican’s Office of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will be giving a public lecture on “The Apostolate Specific to the Lay Faithful” Wednesday, September 19th. The talk will take place at Holy Apostles Church, in Colorado Springs, Colorado at 7 p.m.
Prior to his talk, Cardinal Arinze will be celebrating a Mass open to the public at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Colorado Springs at 3 p.m.
On Thursday, the Cardinal will also present his talk, “Eucharist, Nourishment for the Christian Steward” at a stewardship conference taking place at Spirit of Christ Church in Arvada. An open forum for clergy will also be facilitated by the cardinal.
The Colorado Catholic Herald reports that the Cardinal will also be the keynote speaker at a convention of Legatus stewardship conference which is also being held on the same day in Colorado Springs. Legatus is an organization of Catholic CEOs and business leaders with its mission being: “to study, live and spread the Faith in our business, professional and personal lives.”